Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadians Detained in Egyptian Jail Bonded with Cellmates like Big Family

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadians Detained in Egyptian Jail Bonded with Cellmates like Big Family

Article excerpt

Canadians grew family-like bond in jail


TORONTO - Two Canadians held in an Egyptian jail for seven weeks say they survived by bonding into an "adopted family" with their dozens of cellmates, who quizzed them on life back home and even posed for portraits.

"This was really what kept us alive in some ways -- 38 guys together including ourselves keeping each other on track and optimistic," John Greyson said Saturday.

Greyson and Tarek Loubani touched down Friday night at Toronto's Pearson airport, ending an ordeal that began with their arrest and beating during an anti-government protest in Cairo in mid-August.

Though the duo were dumped into what they've called a cell with a "small bath mat" each worth of space on a concrete floor crawling with cockroaches, they said the care and companionship in the tiny room kept their spirits from breaking.

"When we needed to cry we would cry and people would comfort each other. There was a lot of love," Greyson, a 53-year-old Toronto filmmaker, told The Canadian Press in an interview.

Loubani, 32, said he and Greyson bonded deeply, although they occasionally quibbled over how they would position themselves on the cramped floor and on Loubani's preparation of the meagre food supplied by guards.

"We derived a tremendous amount of strength from each other, and from our families... and from our adopted family" of cellmates, the London, Ont., emergency room doctor said.

When they weren't discussing how to end their detention -- which included a hunger strike -- the pair said they were peppered with questions about life in Canada, while regular activities filled out their days behind bars.

Of the 36 other inmates, Greyson said he sketched portraits of 34 of them.

"The running joke was they'd never be useful as evidence in court because they bore no real resemblance" to their subjects, Greyson said. But some of inmates who missed weddings posed for the jail-cell art to have something special for their fiancees, he added.

Greyson said he talked regularly with a handful of cellmates who spoke "high school English," one of whom even memorized Greyson's entire family tree -- and corrected him when he got his sister's age wrong. …

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